Let’s get numbers 1 through 5 out of the way right now;
- You get paid…hopefully. Unpaid internships are dying out, so most employers are paying their interns to get the best possible talent. Though be advised, don’t expect to rake it in. Average intern pay hovers around $13.50/hour
- You can get class credit – getting paid and knocking out some credit hours can yield a pretty great summer.
- You’ll build out your resume - employers expect to see a crowded resume coming out of college. No hiring manager wants to see ‘name, address, ABC University 2011-2015, Bachelor of Science’ and that’s it. They want to see clubs, extracurricular activities, achievements and probably most importantly, work experience (internship)
- You’ll have experience coming out of college - this makes the real world, full-time job adjustment way easier than going in fresh.
- The internship could lead to a full time position. A lot of companies have internships just to find young, smart professionals who could be full-time after they graduate. Really rock your internship and any employer would be hard-pressed not to bring you on full-time later on.
This is a student’s first real taste of the working world. A chance to see what they like and more importantly, what they don’t like. Being in a new city, meeting new people, adjusting to an office environment, networking – are all incredibly important to becoming a well adjusted professional and preparing for life after school.
Find out what you like (and don't like)
One summer I worked in the marketing department at a performing arts center. Another summer I worked in the office and warehouse of a outdoors gear company. The next one I did an internship with a sales rep. I learned an insane amount at each one of them and feel lucky to have worked in all those positions. But I knew after each one that those jobs were not what I wanted to do. That’s not to say I regretted those internships, far from it, I just had a better idea of what I wanted to do.
That’s why I think internships are so important. I was interested in and took classes for sales, supply chain management, corporate marketing, but once I was in a position where I was doing it day in and day out, the interest for those subjects faded and other subjects became more interesting.
Real world projects
You’ve spent the time in the classroom and library studying theories, equations, ideas, history, etc. Now it’s time to see how all of that knowledge plays in real world scenarios. Even if you don’t think what you learned in class applies to real world projects, how you learned in the classroom can help you quickly catch-up at the office.
During the school year you’re in batting cages, just making better and better contact in a protected environment. Getting an internship or full time position puts you on the field, with no nets and the pitcher throwing whatever they want at you. You’ll learn not everything fits together like it should, or makes sense, or is as valued as you think it is.
Adaptability is one of the best things I learn in my internships. I hit road bumps and made wrong turns with every project or product I was involved with (sometimes even drove the car off the cliff) but learning how to maneuver past initial and frequent hiccups prepared me for the daily issues of working life.
Meet everyone, and I mean everyone, at the company. Doesn’t matter if they’re in IT or sales, make a connection. You never know when someone is going to have a project they’ll need a hand on, or objective that would be perfect for you. You also never know where those people are going to be in the future, so make a lasting impact now.
I networked when I worked at an outdoor apparel company and one of the connections I made ended up offering me another internship with his company a couple years later.
This is getting more and more important. Figuring out what type of environment you work best in can be the difference between a job and a career. I had plenty of internships that I learned a lot during and will always cherish but it’s unlikely I would ever work there full-time.
That’s not to disparage any of those companies, they were all phenomenal businesses but the culture didn’t totally fit what I needed in a career.
Take the time to figure out what job/environment/culture you thrive in, but make the best of any situation you’re in.